Yes, there really is a world champion of making spreadsheets and he definitely Excels

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 10:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 August, 2017, 10:17pm

When Jack Dumoulin started using Microsoft Excel in middle school to analyse the performance of his favourite professional baseball players, he still dreamed of becoming one himself.

But he had no idea that his savvy with spreadsheets would take him to another field of competition: the Excel World Championship.

Dumoulin, a 17-year-old varsity baseball player at Forest Park High in Prince William County, Virginia, won first prize at the Excel World Championship earlier this month, besting 149 opponents from around the globe and becoming the first American to win in the competition’s 16-year history. The title came with a US$7,000 check.

“It’s really special for me because I’m just glad I was able to put the USA out there as a strong, competitive nation when it comes to academics,” said Dumoulin.

The rising senior has taken classes through the information technology programme at Forest Park High and has earned certifications in Power Point, Word and Excel. About 320,000 students nationwide annually earn the certifications, which can help boost résumés and give young people a leg up in the workforce.

The competitions are run by Certiport, the company that also administers the certification exams. They test knowledge of Excel and its features by giving participants a scenario and asking them to generate spreadsheets and crunch numbers.

Dumoulin took the certification exam for Excel last school year and earned the top score in the state, securing him a trip to the national finals in Orlando, Florida. There, in his first Excel competition ever, he was crowned the national champion. A month later, in late July, he travelled to Anaheim, California, facing off against 156 finalists from 49 countries.

It was not his first time on the global competitive stage – Dumoulin has travelled to the Senior League Baseball World Series with his youth baseball team twice. But unlike the world series, there are no spectators and no cheering from the stands at the Excel World Championship. In fact, in the hotel conference rooms that serve as testing grounds, there aren’t even windows.

While Dumoulin was nervous, he wasn’t shaken. For good luck, he slipped a photo of his late grandmother Helen C. Buckley into his pocket. Buckley, who lived with his family until she died at age 79, was too frail to watch him play baseball, so he would recount his games to her in detail. Now, she could be with him in a way as he competed again – albeit in a radically different setting. He thought the photo would give him good luck.

“I decided to do it for this one, and it worked out pretty well,” Dumoulin said.

The teenager said his aspirations have shifted since middle school. He is a student of sabermetrics – the statistical study of baseball made famous by the book and movie Moneyball – and even wrote a paper on salary caps for his Advanced Placement English class. He now dreams of working in a front office. And with at least one kind of world title under his belt, that dream no longer seems so far out of reach.

“I always thought of that as kind of like a dream job besides being a Major League Baseball player,” Dumoulin said. “It’s more of like a reality now.”